March 22, 2004
Monday, March 22, 2004:
"FDA Says Antidepressant Patients Need Watching"
"WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Patients taking anti-depressants, including
children and teenagers, should be closely monitored for signs of
worsening depression and suicidal thoughts, U.S. health authorities
said on Monday....'We do not know whether or not the treatment ...
causes these changes. It may just be the natural course of the disease,'
said Dr. Russell Katz, head of neuropharmacological drugs at the
FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. Until it concludes
its studies, the agency called on doctors to closely monitor for
signs of hostility, anxiety, insomnia, and other behaviors that
could signal worsening depression and suicidal thoughts. Regulators
first alerted physicians to carefully watch children or teenagers
taking antidepressants last fall. Today's stronger warning calls
for closer monitoring and urges patients, families and caregivers
to spot behavioral changes. Patients should alert their doctors,
who may consider lowering the dose or ending use of the drug, the
While many consider the
risks before deciding whether or not to get a preventative vaccine,
those who already have an illness--and are looking for relief--often
disregard the concerns associated with possible side effects.
"Like any drug, vaccines
are capable of causing serious problems, even death. However,
a decision not to immunize a child also involves risk. It is a decision
to put a child at risk for contracting serious, and potentially
deadly, diseases. Getting vaccinated is much safer than getting
the disease vaccines prevent....In most cases, vaccines cause no
side effects, or only mild reactions such as fever or soreness at
the injection site. Very rarely, people experience more serious
side effects, like allergic reactions. Severe reactions to
vaccines occur so rarely that the risk is usually difficult to calculate."
Doctors agree that vaccines
are safer than the diseases they were created to prevent. What about
In this most recent case with antidepressants, the FDA is unsure
if the medication is the cause of the problem, or if the disease--for
which these patients are taking the medication--is really at fault.
In other cases, it has been established that it is clearly the medication
that causes the side effects.
"It is a well known
fact that all medications have some side effects, at least for certain
people taking them. It is an inside joke among health professionals
that people wouldn't even take Tylenol if they knew all of its possible
side effects. Even when you see an advertisement on TV for a new
drug, you are always told the major side effects, such as headaches,
diarrhea, nervousness, etc....Why would you want to take a medication
that causes such side effects? Usually because the benefit of the
medication far outweighs the possible side effects. It is important
to know a medications side effects though, both so that you can
make an informed decision about whether you want to give your child
the medication and so that you can recognize possible side effects
when they occur."
While some people take
into consideration possible side effects when taking prescription
medications, over-the-counter medicines are often overlooked.
pain medication can be such a blessing when we're not feeling great.
It's so easy to just take a pill and feel a whole lot better. But,
medicine that's easy to get and easy to take can also have an unexpected
effect on our liver....A year ago, Beverlee Norene was in the emergency
room at UC Davis Medical Center. She was in a coma, and she was
dangerously close to death....Over-the counter pain medication was
a big part of the problem. Beverlee's liver had been damaged beyond
repair. She eventually had a liver transplant to save her life."
While the case above is
not the norm, it is easier than one might expect to ingest more
medication than the body can easily process, thus increasing the
likelihood of doing more harm than good.
"'Let's say a person
in extreme pain takes eight or 10 extra-strength Tylenol a day that's
5 grams a day. That could be enough to overwhelm the liver's defense
mechanism.' And if you add alcohol, even a socially acceptable one
or two glasses of wine a day, you need only four extra-strength
Tylenol or acetominophen tablets a day to cause liver damage. What
kind of damage? Well, the liver develops fibrous tissue which can
develop then into scar tissue. And the scar tissue can lead to cirrhosis
of the liver."
"Why would you want
to take a medication that causes such side effects? Usually because
the benefit of the medication far outweighs the possible side effects."
Questions of the Week:
Currently, if you are taking any medications, what do you know about
them? In the past, before you have begun taking a new medication
(whether prescription or over-the-counter), what did you make it
a point to learn? What should you know about any medications you
are currently taking or plan to take? How do you decide if the benefits
outweigh the risks?
Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.
I look forward to reading
what you have to say.
Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum